I wasn’t with her, but she called it surreal. It’s been over a month since her last clinic visit, and closer to two since her last poke. She vividly recounts the months of visits before, many times in a wheelchair. She recalled being looked at with pity. She recalled the needle-pricked veins. The weakness. The routine. She was never really fond of it all but it grew to be normal. Now, a short time later, it is only a memory. Going back reminded her that she doesn’t want to be there again.

We laid in bed last night as she describe this. I watched her talking as she laid on her back and looked up. I was caught off guard by the tear that rolled from the outer corner of her eye toward her ear. This clinic visit was emotional for her and I just figured that out. It dawned on me that I never experienced her side of it. I may have been pushing the wheelchair and holding her hand in some of the moments, but she was there every time. It was her. Her veins. Her frailty. Her pain. Her nausea. Her goals gone. Her body broken. As the tears continued she said, “I don’t think I could go through that again.”

She went on to describe the encounters with others who were going through what she went through. She knew what they were feeling. She found some purpose in her experience as she related to them and spoke encouragement to them.

We don’t get professional interpretation of the results until September 13, but her blood work shows that the CA125 number is down even lower than the last time she had it checked a month ago. Her white blood cell count and hemoglobin are also down which is not great. Ironically today she got sick with a low grade fever and feeling like crap.

This new phase takes some extra faith. We look back and see the hard road we traveled and wonder how we got to here. God was faithful to sustain us all along.


Common Journey, Uncommon Love

A few years back we vacationed to Washington, D.C. over spring break. On the way home there were several families we knew on the flights. It was weird to see people from Rochester in D.C. and in Chicago. But we were heading for the same destination, so I guess it made sense.

I don’t know what I expected. When I felt like Tara was okay, I felt freedom to redirect my focus back to how it was before cancer. It was kind of a relief to be honest. I let go of my caretaker role for the first time in about 6 months.

During those 6+ months, I seriously wrestled with the mortality of the situation. It was heavy at times thinking about the path that could be. But Tara didn’t allow herself to go there much. She had a physical battle to fight and that rightfully consumed her.

Now it is different. She is living daily with mortality in mind and I am not. Again this changes the dynamics of our relationship. It has even caused some friction at times, which I think is good. This experience was so different for the two of us and it is shaping us in very different ways.

I don’t wonder how much I love Tara. And I certainly don’t owe the explanation to anyone, except her, and words don’t prove that anyway. But I do wonder how (not if) we will continue to grow in our love. I know God purposed this last 7 months. I suppose the way we will grow together is the way we always have. We’ll keep aiming for the likeness of Christ, and we’ll keep finding ourselves together and in love on the journey. It is just like the flight home from D.C., the common goal destines us to the common journey, which blesses us with an uncommon love.


Day 208. Tara continues to feel better. Every day is full of activity and every night ends in exhaustion. September 3 is the next appointment to get blood drawn and a scan done. September 13 we have an appointment with the Oncologist to look at the results and get his interpretation. We are excited about that and pray that the results are favorable.

I can’t believe that over 10% of Lewis’ life has been post diagnosis. The time is flying. I guess that is good, right? Now the school year begins and we are contemplating activities. We will dip our toe in the water very carefully so we don’t take on too much. But we know the time has come.


We had small kids at the time, only three. Tara and I started our customary evening stroll around the yard when an owl make a weak attempt to swoop down and scare us. Tara wanted to go back inside. I said, “Owls don’t hunt people. How many times have you seen an owl carrying around a human in their talons? Now come on, lets walk.” Additional resistance spurred more false teaching from me since I just wanted to walk. Finally she agreed, so I threw in a final poke. “But if they do attack, whatever you do, don’t run, because that makes them frenzied and they attack more.”

The moment I finished saying that, it felt like someone swung a full loaf of bread as hard as they could and smashed the back of my head. My neck hunkered down and my hand grabbed the spot that was hit, and I felt wetness. The owl’s razor sharp talons punctured me. I ran back toward the house but Tara was frozen, remembering my earlier teachings. She said, “Don’t run, they might attack more.” She eventually came to her senses and ran in too.

The story didn’t end well for the owl and it’s family. For us it did. I learned how much my wife depends on me for truth. She even believes me even when I am full of BS about owls. Some would call that gullible but I, well I would call it that too.

We tell each other that things will be okay. We really feel that way right now. But we haven’t always. At times, we suspected we would not make it. Both of these are based on how we feel or think. But real truth is not based on what we feel or think. Real truth is simply what is. And it is verified by the experiences of life. We know that cancer is hard. That is true. We know that people can make it through difficult times. That is true. We know that God will give us joy in the midst of trials. That is true. We know that God will sustain us with his word, the scriptures. That is true. We know that God answers the fervent prayers of a broken hearted family. That is true.

So as we see God’s promises fulfilled more and more, we gain confidence that He is the truth. And we can have confidence that the rest of his promises are true. Easier said than done. But we’ll keep trying.

Simply Significant

We measure the pieces very precisely. The crane’s 127′ boom and its angle tells the operator exactly how far the load is from the turret. That distance determines the maximum load, and there cannot be any error. In the tree, I set straps on branches in such a way that the load is balanced, and I calculate the weight of the piece I plan to cut, targeting less than the maximum capacity at that distance.

The piece is then cut and the truth is told. The crane picks the piece up over my head and takes it away. Once the piece is hanging, the operator relays back to me exactly how much the piece weighs, and I compare what I estimated to the actual. This process repeats over and over until the tree is completely removed and sitting in the landing. Any error at any time would topple the crane over on me in the tree, or on the house.

The accountability of this process is fantastic. I am forced to gather my data in a matter of a few minutes, and then make the call. Then I get immediate feedback. If I am off, I wouldn’t just get my hand slapped, I would likely die. Or at a minimum a house would get crushed. This doesn’t scare me though, because I make decisions that do not exceed the limit of the system, and I have control to see most of the variables.

I wish life were more like this; make a decision and get immediate feedback as to whether or not you were right. But instead, we make decisions hourly, and wait up to 10 or more years to see the implications, and by then tens of thousands of other decisions have been made based on the previous decisions. It is so complex that no one can predict the outcome of a series of decisions. Our life-planning process is inherently flawed because of this.

I am thankful that we have a creator who spans the boundaries of time and can see the sum of all decisions and knows the outcome. He has complete foreknowledge of those decisions and has known the outcome since before time began. He would often want us to make different decisions, but he loves us enough to give us complete freedom, knowing that if he controlled every decision, we would be no better than robots and could not express love back to him in that capacity.

I simply want to live my life and lead my family on a path of significance. So each day that I wake up, I have a choice; try to figure out what course of action will give that significance, or give my day to the one who gives significance. I try to choose the latter, because that is a sure thing, but most often fail. My days are full of decisions. Most are not even considered with prayerful thought. May I eventually learn, and in the meantime, keep experiencing the grace he shows me after each mistake. I simply want significance. And I know where to find it.

High Water Mark

Traveling down the Missouri river in a canoe I gained respect for the power of water. It wasn’t the dam we traversed that taught the respect. That struck the fear in us. We had the respect before that. We saw the way it shaped the bank. How it moved soil from the cut banks, took the soil downstream and deposited the sand and rocks on the point bars. How it over time completely changed its course regardless of what was in its way.

One day we looked up at trees on the banks and saw the year’s high water mark about 6′ up on the trees, about 13′ above the water we were paddling. We tried to imagine the massive volume of water that spanned over 1 mile wide, 13′ deeper than it was, and hundreds of miles long. The high water mark showed remnants of power. Sometimes 20″ diameter logs were wedged 6-8′ up in the crotch of another tree. Whole trees were uprooted and left to waste along with hundreds of others.

How easily we forget. I asked Tara if she thought much about cancer today. She said, “Until I looked in the mirror this afternoon, I didn’t.” But just yesterday her comment was quite different. “I have a month to get all this stuff done.” “What do you mean?” I asked. “I have a month until the scan and then who knows after that.”

So cancer is not quite off of our minds. Actually, far from it. I hope we always think about it. It changed us. Shaped us. Taught us more about who we are. It was the high water mark in our lives. We look at it and see remnants of power. Uprooted dreams. Lives that changed course regardless of what was in the way at the time.

We are so grateful for cancer and what it has done for us. It deposited a new layer of fertile silt on us where new seeds can grow. As we re-engage, may the high water mark never fade.

Second Wind

Early in the throws of sickness, I analogized Tara’s (and the whole family’s) journey to a race. Tara is a runner (intentional use of present tense) and a fan of running. To the low level that either of us achieved in running, we understand what it means to train and compete. We know that pushing hurts, but if the distance is long enough you eventually catch a second wind.

I think we are catching it. Tara is feeling better each day. Just the thought of being done with chemo is like getting to the top of a long hill. Our legs and lungs were burning but we kept pushing. Now it is down hill for a while. But we won’t let up. We will use this downhill stretch to gain some ground.

We look around at some of the things we necessarily let slide (parenting, house projects, physical fitness, etc.) and we think, “Oh my, we have some work to do.” But it will come and we will try to be patient with the process.

We got started on one project we wanted to do before school started; getting the kids rooms remodeled and switched around. There is excitement in the home as the kids anticipate new wall colors, new arrangement of furniture, and more. It is a great family project where everyone gets to play a part. It is so simple, yet so awesome to be a part of.

We are also trying to get back into shape as a family. I have been taking regular runs with the kids; either with the older 2 who are in cross country or occasionally with the younger ones on bike. But it is now not “a time” that matters to me, rather “the time” with them. Most notably, Tara walked the Spartan 5K this weekend. That was a HUGE accomplishment. Her body was tired (understated) and her time was not impressive to her, but she has now set a marker in the sand and is determined to regain some strength.

Looking back, it is evident that we were sustained through what seemed at the time like an impossible journey. It would be easy now to say “It wasn’t so bad” and “We made it”. But the reality is God sustained us. He kept our feet on a rock and established our steps. During even the worst parts, he gave us joy that was unspeakable.

So we will now take advantage of our second wind while we have it.



It Just ‘is’

I talked to a man recently who was down. His lawn mower wasn’t starting and it was a big deal to him. He didn’t have the money to get it fixed and his grass was already too long. He was stressed. It was the most pressing stress on his life.

I talked to a woman recently who was down. A spiritually strong individual with a life of serving God. Illness brought her to The Mayo Clinic. They tried treating the issues and with no fault of her own, she became chemically dependent on the pain medication they prescribed. She was hurting, humbled and broken. It was the most pressing stress on her life.

We have watched others’ trials much differently lately. Each one is difficult and complex. From the outside, something may seem like no big deal. But on the inside there is often so much more going on. It is incredibly inspiring to watch someone handle their trial well, regardless of how big it seems.

We can say, now that we are past the first phase of cancer, that cancer is neither good nor bad. It just ‘is’. Yeah it knocked us down and in the middle of it we lost perspective at times. But we seemed to find joy in it somehow (actually we didn’t find it, it found us). It will always be a part of us; our decisions, our thought process, our daily grind, our parenting, our sex life, our work, our play; yet not rule us or strike fear into us. It just ‘is’. Like a wart on our nose. We can’t do anything about it. We can’t cry about it with any benefit. We just wish it were not there. It seems to distract our peripheral vision at times but if we are going about our business each day, most of the time we will not even notice it.

So really, cancer just ‘is’. But what the cancer did for us is not neutral. I am so thankful we have a loving God that would not hold back a trial from us. He trusted us with it. This trial deepened our faith, increased our joy, strengthened our relationships, increased our understanding and compassion for others and more. It brought to life the words of scripture. It showed off the goodness of God in ways that I could never have understood otherwise.

Lord Give Me Words to Speak

Okay my first blog entry and its been 6 months. It’s due to a few factors:

1. I’m not a big computer user. I believe AJ had to tell me what a blog was.

2. I’ve been in survival mode until recently. Getting groceries for our family for the first time was a huge accomplishment. Thank you Kristie for loading them in my car, I’d forgotten how heavy they can get!

3. The center of attention is something I like to avoid at all costs. To share my weaknesses to a lot of people has been very humbling to say the least.

4. Last but not least I knew Jay would do a much better job communicating what needed to be said. Okay, I did have to edit his entry when we got the big snowfall:)

So forgive me as I attempt to say what is on my heart- Lord give me words to speak!

First, I have to say something about how my husband has painted me to be a saint through all of this-oh how I love this man more that words could say. I cannot wait to grow old with this man if its God’s will. He has been through more these last 6 months than any man should have to endure. Thank you for being the one to read God’s Word when I could not! Thank you for fasting & praying the whole day of surgery. If any of you know my husband you know not eating for more than 3 hours is one strong feat:) You are the only one I would want to lead this journey that we are on. May I follow strongly and encourage you along the way to have joy in each moment of every day. God has truly blessed us with joy even in these hard days:)

Since Jay & I were in survival mode it was crucial we had others come in to help. This was something very foreign to us and we resisted at first. I’m so glad they just did it anyway. We would not have been able to make it without all the meals, cleaning, people doing our laundry, friends taking me to appointments, neighbor pulling my weeds, neighbor bringing over ice cream treats, donuts, meals, or fresh produce from farmer’s market!

Amazing people offering rides for our kids to stay involved in sports & activities, wonderful friend bringing her daughter’s dresses so my daughters could have something for the eternal elegance activity at church. I’ve had wonderful encouragers who printed posters- still on my wall by the way! Others who write me letters weekly:) Our small group who cried with us, organized help, encouraged me on the Diva run, and have prayed for us daily!!! Our parents who had to step in and take care of our kids. I guess this was the easiest as we fully trust our kids to our amazing Godly parents. The legacy they were able to instill while they were in our home is truly precious! Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My girlfriends and family who have asked the hard questions, celebrated with me, and who have prayed daily even though their lives were full! I pray that God will bless each one of you as much as you have blessed us! Okay, I did not adequately express the tears that are flowing down my face right now because I have been blessed by each one of you! Thank you!

Before All This Started

This weekend is the first time that Tara and I have been away from each other since before all of this started. It is not much different than me being at work all day during the week. The only difference is the few hours at the end when I usually come home. I forget how much I love that time. Just hearing the screams of “Daddy’s is home!” when I walk in the door. And “fighting off” those hoards to get to my wife to give her a kiss. Any more I have to go find the oldest 2 girls to say hello. Their enthusiasm to see me is still there (at least that is what I tell myself), they just don’t compete with their siblings for the attention. Being away makes me appreciate how much I love being with my family.

Friday’s appointment went as expected. Tara is officially done with round one of chemotherapy. The plan is to do a scan and blood work in one month. Between now and then, nothing. While Tara has felt pretty good over the last several weeks, I think she will quickly realize that “pretty good” was relative to the 5 months before. We expect that she will have a renewed vigor that she hasn’t felt since before all of this started.

I pray that this next phase is a time that we can continue to trust in God. This may be even harder for me, I am not sure. To not be “doing” anything for the cancer may be scary. But the fact that Tara will be feeling much better will likely outweigh all of that.

Life will be more like it was before all of this started, only way different.